Scientists have just published the most amazing and detailed image of a sunspot human beings have never seen.
The image, taken on January 28 by the Inouye solar telescope, shows magnetic structures as small as 20 kilometers on the surface of the sun, said Thomas Rimmele, associate director of NSF’s National Solar Observatory (NSO) at a Statement from the National Science Foundation. NSF built and operates the telescope that captured this image, which was released on December 3. The solar telescope is the largest dedicated to observing the sun.
While the image of this sunspot measures only a small part of the sun, at just 10,000 miles (16,100 kilometers) wide it is large enough that Earth can easily fit inside it. When looking at the sunspot, you will notice a dark center that appears to be projecting outwards brighter.
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The dark region shows a concentration of magnetic fields that prevent the sun’s heat from reaching the surface. Although this dark area is cooler than the brighter parts of this sunspot, it’s still more than 7,500 degrees Fahrenheit (4,100 degrees Celsius).
The stripes extending from the dark region indicate patches of hot and cold gas sculpted by a convergence of strong magnetic fields and hot gases boiling from below, according to the NSF.
The Inouye Solar Telescope captured this image of a sunspot before the installation was completed. NSF says this image is an indication of incredible views of the sun to come, thanks to the telescope’s advanced optics and 4-m (13-foot) primary mirror and arrival of a new solar cycle with a rebound in activity.
“We can now point the sun with the world’s most advanced solar telescope to capture and share incredibly detailed images and add to our scientific insights into the sun’s activity,” said Matt Mountain, president of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, which manages the Inouye Solar Telescope, said in the NSF statement.
Construction of the Inouye Solar Telescope is scheduled to finish in 2021.
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